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Political Communication

Graduate School of Communication

Thesis examples from Thijs Maas and Edina Strikovic.

From bias to balance? A longitudinal study on partisan bias in historically partisan Dutch newspapers and the relationship with vote choice - Thijs Maas

Prior research on partisan media bias showed that bias seems to be present in a number of media both in the US as well as in Europe. Remarkably though, these European studies were merely cross-sectional while there are reasons to expect changes over time, especially in newspaper content. Therefore this is the first study to investigate over time changes in partisan newspaper bias within a European context. An even more democratically relevant question is what effects this partisan bias has on citizens’ political behavior, such as vote choice. Strikingly though, prior European studies on the relationship between exposure to newspaper bias and vote choice were only cross sectional too, while one would expect changes in this relationship for example due to the societal change from an era of partisan logic towards an era of media logic. Also, whereas most studies assume an (in)direct influence from exposure to partisan bias on vote choice, within this study the historical presence of pillarization in society is added as an important contextual variable that influence this relationship in traditionally pillarized countries. The research was executed in the Netherlands since it is such a country. In line with expectations I found that partisan newspaper bias in historically partisan Dutch newspapers slightly decreased the last decade. Further, I showed that, likely as a result of the decreases in bias, the relationship between reading these newspapers and vote choice decreased as well. Lastly, I demonstrated the important, but declining explanatory role that pillarization 
plays within this relationship.  

Between the lines and beyond the frames: The effect of text and image frames in right-wing populist campaign posters and the mediating role of emotion - Edina Strikovic

The steep rise of right-wing populism (RWP) in recent years is evident in the success of conservative, right-wing policies across Europe and the United States. Political
communication - and in particular the textual and visual cues designed to carry the message of that communication - is at the heart of successful campaigns. However, there is a lack in the research of these elements in combination in the context of RWP. With superfluous amounts of information slung around during political campaigns, it is often just a slogan and image that are at the forefront of the public’s memory about a certain party. Recently, RWP parties seem to perform fairly well. The study at hand, therefore, takes visual and textual elements of some of those campaigns and examines the effect different frames of these elements have on the people, thereby aiming to shed some light on the reasons for their success. The study frames images and texts in a ‘Gains’ and ‘Losses’ opposition, examining the effects and interactions of those frames on people’s attitudes about a given political party and on their intended voting behavior. It also adds the element of emotion, assessing whether the emotions of hope, compassion, fear and anger function as mediators of the framing effects. The experiment finds that text frames have a stronger effect on both attitude and behavioral intentions, while images play an enhancing role to those frames, and that hope and anger play key roles in mediating those effects. The contribution of images, therefore, should be examined more closely in
the research and practice of political communication. The results also underline the discrete negative and positive emotions these texts and images elicit, exposing the
personal nature of RWP campaigns and their targeting of human emotions as campaign tactics.